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Legal advice about former councillor convicted of rape to be released

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THE COUNCIL’S legal advice relating to former councillor and convicted rapist Dai Boswell will be released into the public domain.

In a recorded vote at Thursday’s (Dec 13) Full Council meeting, 41 members voted in favour of the documents being released with just seven voting against.

Cllr Jacob Williams submitted a notice of motion calling for it to be made public and the matter was discussed by an Overview and Scrutiny Committee before coming back to council.

He stated that having seen the documents and providing sensitive information isn’t divulged, that the public has every right to see them.

Boswell was elected in 2017 but did not take up his seat for the first month and the council instructed legal advisor James Goudie QC to give his advice on the matter.

The Council spent over £2000 in doing so and had recommended that the information should not be released.

At Thursday’s meeting Cllr Brian Hall said: “On November 15, the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny committee discussed releasing instructions and evidence which was called for a month after the 2017 election.

“The leader made it clear at a meeting on July 26 that the instructions and advice would be made available to members. The council is now seeking general publication. The recommendation was that the instruction and advice should not be made available as Cllrs could view documents on a need to know basis in order to satisfy themselves in their councillor capacity.

“Two members spoke in support saying the documents contained matters of public interest and that it should be in the public domain.”

Cllr Jacob Williams added: “The legal advice seeking to be published relates to a period of time after Dai had been elected and before he was found guilty. The council were preventing him from taking his seat despite him not being charged.

“Well over £2000 was spent that the council hadn’t been made aware of. I did get it so that councillors were able to see that advice and what I read was a real eye-opener.

“The Monitoring Officers’ report objecting had a number of red herrings and straw men. She said it will create a precedent but I am not seeking to create that. This is just to release two specific documents.

“She also said that approving any request would open up a can of worms if the interest and advice was publicised and that anything that appears in the media would lead to the council conducting business with its hand behind its back.

“This is just this set of legal advice which reflects poorly on senior members of this authority. I am one of the most vocal councillors in opposing the whim of officers when they find themselves in a bind, they go to lawyers to get themselves out of a pickle. This has been a very expensive lesson.”

Cllr Michelle Bateman asked how many councillors had asked to see the legal advice and the Monitoring Officer Claire Jones said that just two had asked, one of which was Cllr Williams.

Cllr Mike Stoddart said: “The Monitoring Officer states that it is not advisable to proactively publish this but we are not proactively publishing. This has been dragged out by the notice of motion. This will be reactive.

He went on to say that there were occasions when the council should keep its advice close to its chest but said this was not one of those occasions.

The debate took a different turn when Cllr Mark Carter asked the leader if views expressed on social media bordered on ‘workplace bullying’ but Council Leader David Simpson said he was not a policeman and that he could not close down a Facebook page.

Cllr Mike Evans added: “I don’t want to see this advice but this is about the principle of whether the public should be allowed to see the advice. The officers are here to give us the whole picture and not the windows they wish us to look through.”

Monitoring Officer Claire Jones gave a lengthy speech about the possible publication of the documents stating that her recommendations to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee were to do with responsible publication and that it was not to be done lightly.

Claire Jones added that Cllr Boswell’s appeal remains live and that there were still victims at the heart of this.

She went on to say that safeguarding was a matter for everyone and that her door was always open to members to come in and discuss issues and that due to the amount of social media interest it was moving towards the documents being in the public interest.

Cllr David Simpson said he was concerned that only two members had seen the advice and that others were discussing without having seen it.

Cllr Williams summed up saying that the speech the Monitoring Officer gave was one of the most ‘memorable’.

In the recorded vote 41 members voted in favour of the advice being released with seven voting against and six abstaining.

News

Milford Haven: Concerns over council refuse collection staff using drugs on duty

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL have confirmed that they are conducting an ongoing internal investigation.

The probe is relating to “illegal drug use by on-duty refuge collection crews” operating from the Thornton Refuge Depot in Milford Haven.

The Herald understands that following suspicions being raised, drug testing was carried out on refuse crews on Monday (May 10) – all before they left their depot.

This newspaper has been told that a number staff, which includes bin lorry drivers, tested positive for drug use, and that the council called in the police.

That information was passed to The Herald by someone who we have confirmed to be a member of staff working at Pembrokeshire County Council, who did not want to be named.

After a request for a statement, a spokesperson for the council has stressed that none of their vehicles were involved, suggesting that, on the day in question, positive tests were arrived at before any bin lorries had left the depot.

As part of the multi-agency operation the police were called and attended Thornton Refuse Depot, but did not make any arrests, and said they had little involvement in the operation.

Pembrokeshire County Council spokesperson said: “We can confirm that there is an ongoing internal workplace investigation and can clarify that there was no police involvement on the day in question – no Pembrokeshire County Council vehicles were involved.

“We are not in a position to comment any further at this time.”

Dyfed Powys Police told The Pembrokeshire Herald: “At the request of Pembrokeshire County Council, officers attended Thornton Refuse Depot to provide [them with] support on the morning of Monday, May 10.

“Officers attended; however they were not utilised.”

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News

Council’s Planning Committee approves ambitious dockyard plans

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL’s Planning Committee this morning (Tuesday, May 18) approved an application for the construction of a new marine engineering project at Pembroke Dock’s Royal Dockyard.
The plans, vociferously opposed by local heritage groups, passed unanimously.

The matter will now go to the Welsh Government, which has reserved its position on the scheme’s approval.
Committee members expressed the view that the balance between heritage and economic development were balanced, with strong views expressed on either side. They decided the balance of the application favoured economic development subject to conditions regarding aspects of the site’s preservation and its ability to be restored in the future.

The Committee members who attended a site visit on Wednesday, May 12, said it was the most informative and best site visit they had this council term. Visiting the site gave them a clearer idea about what was planned and the scale of the project, which would not have been gained from a paper exercise.

While the approval of the scheme was unanimous, one element of the reserved matters caused some members concern: the height and size of the proposed massive new sheds which would be built at a later phase of the project.
Cllr David Pugh, seconded by Cllr Steve Alderman, moved an amendment which would approve the project and delegate reserved matters to officers apart from the sheds’ construction, which would return to the Committee for detailed approval.

Cllr Tony Wilcox and Cllr Mark Carter emphasised the need for certainty regarding the project’s development, a position supported by Cllr David Howlett, Cllrs Pugh, Alderman and Cllr Stephen Joseph said that little delay would be caused to the scheme by bringing the sheds’ development back to the Committee. They noted the significant intrusion of the sheds into the landscape for miles around.

Planning Officer Mike Simmons advised that the project would proceed in five phases and that the applicant, Milford Haven Port Authority, was keen to proceed with the first phase as soon as possible. The first phase would be the infilling of the docks and pool, removing a caisson gate and preserving it, before the building of new slipways.
The Port Authority already accepted the sheds would only be built if there was commercial demand for them.
The amendment proposed by Cllr Pugh passed by six votes to five with two abstentions.

It means before the sheds are built, the Committee will decide the detailed application relating to them.

All other aspects of the development will be decided by officers.

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Business

Further Covid-19 business support packages to become available soon

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PEMBROKESHIRE businesses that remain affected by Covid-19 restrictions can check their eligibility for a new package of support from the Welsh Government.

This latest support package will help those businesses eligible to meet ongoing costs through to the end of June as they prepare for re-opening and more normal trading conditions.

Businesses that stand to benefit include:

  • nightclubs and late entertainment venues
  • events and conference venues not covered by the Welsh Government’s Cultural Recovery Fund (CRF)
  • hospitality and leisure businesses, including restaurants, pubs and cafes
  • supply chain business, which have been materially impacted by restrictions

An eligibility checker has opened on the Business Wales website so businesses can find out how much support they are likely to be entitled to and how to apply.

See more information and check your business’ eligibility at: https://businesswales.gov.wales/coronavirus-advice/

Funding will be calculated based on the size of the business and the type of restrictions they are under.

Businesses will be able submit applications to the Welsh Government from 24th May 2021 for grants of up to £25,000 and by the end of the month to Pembrokeshire County Council for smaller fixed Discretionary Grants.

To keep up to date and see the future application process for the Discretionary Grants please see: https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/business-advice-and-support

The above link will be be updated with the latest information.  

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